The 2014 Jeep Cherokee is on the verge of hitting dealerships across the country, and this new mid-size SUV is an important one for the off-road brand. Designed to appeal primarily to those intending to keep all four wheels on the pavement, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee still adheres to the company's line of making sure each of its products is 'Trail Rated,' that is to say capable of handling the rough stuff if the need should arise. It also marks the first time Jeep is sharing a platform with its corporate parent Fiat, in an effort to not just improve on fuel mileage but also reduce development costs.
Let's take a look at 10 things you need to know about the 2014 Jeep Cherokee.
01. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Is An All-New Design
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee adopts a clean-slate design approach, as the vehicle borrows only certain aspects of its drivetrain from previous Jeep products. Nowhere is this philosophy more apparent than when examining its styling. The Jeep Cherokee's snub-nose look maintains the brand's seven-slot grille - albeit with a new bend at the top - but takes its looks in a far more aggressive direction than any other Jeep model other than the Grand Cherokee SRT. Sharp headlights, aggressive fender bulges, an almost flat bumper and a short hood create an appearance that is not exactly graceful, but definitely unique on the mid-size SUV market.
02. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Is Based On A Fiat Platform
A big part of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee's highly individualized looks have to do with the platform that sits underneath its sheet metal. The Jeep Cherokee makes use of a modified version of the same underpinnings used by the Dodge Dart compact sedan, which in turn is derived from an Alfa Romeo design. This means that the Jeep Cherokee benefits from a front-wheel drive layout, which is a first for the rugged brand, in addition to its available four-wheel drive models. Front-wheel drive might seem like a radical departure for Jeep, but its arrival coincides with the very real need to build more fuel efficient vehicles to balance out thirstier elements of the company's lineup.
03. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Replaces The Jeep Liberty
Speaking of thirstier elements - the 2014 Jeep Cherokee replaces the now-departed Jeep Liberty as the automaker's volume mid-size SUV. Although official figures have yet to be released, executives have promised that the Jeep Cherokee will be up to 45 percent more efficient than the Liberty ever was, with the base engine predicted to deliver 31-mpg in highway driving. The vehicle will also dramatically improve on the ride comfort and quality of the Liberty, and in order to do this a move away from a more traditional SUV-type design into the front-wheel drive crossover space was a necessity. Finally, the Cherokee promises to deliver a more contemporary, and upscale interior than was ever available in the Liberty.
04. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Provides Two Engine Choices
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee's base engine takes the form of a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder 'Tigershark' design, which makes use of the Fiat-derived MultiAir system in order to improve power while maintaining respectable fuel efficiency. The 2.4-liter unit has been pegged to produce 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. Joining the four-cylinder engine on the Jeep Cherokee's options list is a 3.2-liter V-6. This motor is based on the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 that has gradually become standard on a wide range of Chrysler vehicles, and it features 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque. Jeep has announced that the 3.2-liter mill will deliver 30 percent better fuel mileage than the 18-mpg combined rating offered by the Liberty's less powerful 3.7-liter V-6.
05. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Introduces Segment-First Transmission
The 2013 Jeep Cherokee's newfound fuel efficiency isn't exclusively the product of its more slippery aerodynamic shape (when compared to the Liberty) and its advanced engine options. The Jeep Cherokee also benefits from being the recipient of the first nine-speed automatic transmission to be installed in an SUV in North America. Why so many forward gears? The more cogs available to a transmission, the better it is able to keep an engine in its powerband, as well as adjust for reduced fuel consumption while cruising. Although it might seem like autoboxes are gaining gears at an alarming rate, transmission specialists posit that above 11 speeds, there are few efficiency gains to be found. This indicates that we are approaching the end of the automatic transmission arms race.
06. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Offers Three Four-Wheel Drive Systems
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee can be ordered with one of three four-wheel drive systems. The first, Jeep Active Drive I, can be thought of as more of an all-wheel, rather than a four-wheel drive system as it is designed to be always-on and doesn't feature low-range gearing. Jeep Active Drive II installs a low-range feature that locks each of its drive shafts together to improve performance off-road, or while towing a heavy load (the vehicle is rated to pull up to 4,500 lbs). Active Drive II also gives the Cherokee an additional inch of ground to go with crawl capability. Jeep Active Drive Lock is like the Active Drive II system, except that it comes with a locking rear differential. Each of the Jeep Cherokee's four-wheel drives also features Selec-Terrain, which allows drivers to dial in the surface conditions being faced by the SUV (Snow, Sand/Mud, Rock, Sport, and Auto are the available settings).
07. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Comes In Four Trim Levels
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee will be offered in four distinct trim levels: Sport, Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk. Specific details of each trim's equipment have not been published, but some available features include a configurable TFT screen that replaces the Jeep Cherokee's traditional gauge cluster, the updated Uconnect vehicle interface (which comes with an 8.4-inch LCD touchscreen), a cargo management system, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and heated and ventilated leather seats. The Trailhawk model gains Jeep's vaunted Trail Rated badge, due to the presence of skid plates, tow hooks, and standard Active Drive II four-wheel drive.
08. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Includes Automatic Parking
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee introduces another first for the brand: automated parking. Unlike similar systems from Ford, which are designed exclusively with parallel parking in mind, the Jeep Cherokee's ParkSense system can tackle both parallel parking and perpendicular parking. The feature is designed to automatically guide drivers into a tight parking space, whether 90-degree reverse in a parking lot or squeezing in between cars on the street. ParkSense is another indication of how much farther the Cherokee moves towards the urban end of the SUV spectrum when compared against the older Liberty model.
09. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Has Been Designed With Safety In Mind
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee is loaded with safety equipment, and it offers buyers access to a long list of active gear that can help prevent an accident from occurring out on the road. Jeep claims 70 discrete standard and optional safety features, but the most interesting include an adaptive cruise control system with forward collision warning, a lane departure warning system, blind spot monitoring, a backup camera, cross path detection (which uses sonar to detect oncoming vehicles while reversing out of a parking space), and of course electronic stability control, traction control, and an anti-rollover system. The Cherokee also comes with 10 airbags.
10. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Builds On The History Of Its Name
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee might be all-new, but its name certainly is not. The original Jeep Cherokee went out of production in 2001, when the Liberty was introduced to replace it. The Liberty was in fact labeled the Cherokee outside of the United States and Canada. Box-like, small, and extremely capable in off-road situations, the original Cherokee doesn't share much in common with the current model in terms of its design philosophy. Linking the new with the old, however, helps to preserve some continuity in Jeep's portfolio, which is important for a brand that has always been focused on its history as a builder of utility-first vehicles. It also adds some name recognition thanks to the strong following enjoyed by the larger Jeep Grand Cherokee.